This post could probably go on forever and everyone has different standards to what they deem necessary for backpacking, so different people will pack different things for different reasons. This also changes based on where you go on your adventure because of weather, length of hike and where your campground is. This is based on my wife’s and my preferences for the trips that we go on. The main argument is whether the amount of comfort or enjoyment is worth the weight. While packing, I would go through each of the items and thinking through whether the item is worth it.
In the past, usually on shorter hikes into camp, I have stuffed my pack to weigh 50+ lbs. with an eight-man tent for 4 people, cans of food, an air mattress, coolers, briquettes for a BBQ, and other items that aren’t usually seen in the backcountry. At the same time, I’ve also skimped on weight to the point of sleeping in a bivy sack or hammock, cutting my tooth brush handle, sharing a sleeping bag with my wife, wearing the same clothes for 3 days straight and other minimalist practices. After going on so many different trips and having thought about this argument multiple times, I can tell you that it kind of is based on how I felt while I was packing and personal preferences.
The experts recommend that your pack weight doesn’t exceed more than a fifth of your body weight because it can cause issues with your back and makes it difficult to climb steep hills. On longer multi-day adventures or adventures in colder regions or seasons, you will probably have to carry heavier gear or more food, which increases the weight, so make sure that you are close to that fifth of your body weight. You should also read about pack sizing and packing to make sure that your pack is well fitted and the weight is distributed correctly.
To decide whether to pack something or not, I would go through the following steps:
- Pack the most necessary gear
- Make sure that you have all the food that you need for the trip plus a little more to cover emergencies if you’re unable to get off the trail as planned.
- Make sure that you have the proper clothing needed such as a rain jacket or snow gear for colder or wetter areas.
- Make sure you have the necessary protection for your shelter (rainfly, ground tarps, or the right kind of shelter).
- Pack the items that give the most comfort for the smallest weight
- Deck of cards, set of dice, or other games are usually pretty nice to play in the evening
- I usually pack more food or desserts for the trip
- Heavier, more comfortable sleeping system including pad or a larger tent
- Little conveniences that you would normally go without like a speaker for music, something to charge your phone, sandals for around camp.
- Pack items larger comfort items that still won’t cause your back to break
- On shorter trips or with stronger hikers, this accounts for larger items like I brought an 8-man tent because the hike was only 5 miles and was running cross-country at the time, so carrying it was still fairly easy.
- I would still go lightest item for the amount of enjoyment the better like a camp chair versus a larger tent.
- Just have fun with it.
After looking at the different items with the above criteria, you should now have a fairly solid understanding of what you’re taking on your trip. It should be a nice balance between weight and comfort. Ultimately, if it compromises your ability to enjoy the trip because you’re unable to make the trek, then you probably should rethink taking it.
Remember to just have fun with your adventures!